A test for several circulating tumor-associated antibodies appears to be highly accurate in distinguishing patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) from patients without cancer, according to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and Europe. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for approximately 75%-80% of all lung cancers. Tests to identify markers of NSCLC in the blood may contribute to improved screening, diagnosis, staging, and management of NSCLC. Efforts to identify a single marker have not yet been successful; researchers hypothesize that a combination of markers may prove most valuable.

Antibody profiling makes use of the fact that some NSCLC proteins are recognized by antibodies in plasma from cancer patients, but not in plasma from patients without cancer. To identify and test antibody profiles that may help predict the presence of NSCLC, researchers evaluated plasma samples from patients with and without NSCLC. First, plasma from 40 patients with NSCLC and 41 patients without NSCLC was used to identify 212 candidate tumor markers, seven of which were ultimately found to be important and non-redundant predictors of NSCLC.

To explore and test the best use of these markers in identifying NSCLC, researchers divided the 81 patients into a training sample and a validation sample. Results using the training sample indicated that five of the markers were particularly predictive of NSCLC; these markers correctly classified 95% of the patients with NSCLC and 85% of the control subjects. When these markers were re-tested in the validation sample, accuracy was once again high:

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  • In the validation sample, the test based on the five most predictive markers correctly classified 90% of the NSCLC patients and 95% of the control subjects.
  • The overall accuracy was higher than has been achieved using several other potential tumor markers.

The researchers conclude that “antibody profiling is a promising approach that could achieve high diagnostic accuracy for non-small cell lung cancer.” Ultimately, the researchers hope that this approach will lead to earlier diagnosis of NSCLC. They plan to conduct additional studies among patients with early-stage NSCLC and matched control subjects.

Reference: Zhong L, Hidalgo GE, Stromberg AJ et al. Using Protein Microarray as a Diagnostic Assay for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine . 2005;1308-1314.

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